Genesis – First, God
It is probably one of the hardest acts to do in life when you purchase enough land, from strangers, to bury your mom and then your dad. We live in Indiana. Ministry moved us here. We grew up in Oklahoma.
We moved my parents from Oklahoma to Indiana as they aged so they could be near us. It was a struggle for them to leave the land they loved, their friends at church, and all that was known to them. But it was becoming more of a struggle to not be where we were so we could help them with daily tasks that only family should do.
It was suggested that they move closer to us, our grown kids and their families who live nearby a few times over the years, but I knew it had to be their choice, their timing (and God’s) for this move. Even though we age, we should still have the ability to choose at God’s prompting.
God prompted mom first and then dad. Mom called me one day and announced, “It’s time, we’re ready to move.” We jumped into action and took all the steps necessary to sell their lovely home, downsize their belongings and plan the move. Mom did what she could on their end as she was always good with organizing paperwork and tasks. From our end, God led me to a wonderful condo that was just a few minutes from our house. The condos were just being built so for the first time in their lives they would move into something brand new. The move was made.
Only a couple of years later, mom progressively lost strength. As she knew she was nearing the close of this chapter, she told Randy and I not take her body back to Oklahoma to be buried. “TOO expensive”, she said with a grin, even though the plot was paid for in Oklahoma by other family plots. “Purchase a plot of ground in a cemetery here”, she said. “I won’t really be there. I will be in a better place anyway, so it doesn’t matter.”
We are all just passing through this earth, strangers in a foreign land called the world with worldview thinking people. That ache in our hearts as we move about from place to place is a longing to live forever with Jesus someday!
Paul eloquently writes about our final home, “For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again.”
“Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.” 2 Corinthians 5:1-5, The Message
Abraham lived in tents as he was a “rancher” of sorts. He traveled about on the land owned by others, but land that God said was his to possess. When Sarah dies, where will he bury his precious wife, his princess? He buys land, (that he already owns according to God). His humility, wisdom and integrity is astounding and to be admired! Leaders want to give him the land because of who he is, but he insists on paying full price. He makes the transaction in front of the community leaders, the tradition of the day, so that the contract is complete in the eyes of all who know him.
His beloved Sarah is buried in a purchased cave to be memorialized. Abraham finally “owns” a piece of land.
Genesis 23, The Message
1-2 Sarah lived 127 years. Sarah died in Kiriath Arba, present-day Hebron, in the land of Canaan. Abraham mourned for Sarah and wept.
3-4 Then Abraham got up from mourning his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites: “I know I’m only an outsider here among you, but sell me a burial plot so that I can bury my dead decently.”
5-6 The Hittites responded, “Why, you’re no mere outsider here with us, you’re a prince of God! Bury your dead wife in the best of our burial sites. None of us will refuse you a place for burial.”
7-9 Then Abraham got up, bowed respectfully to the people of the land, the Hittites, and said, “If you’re serious about helping me give my wife a proper burial, intercede for me with Ephron son of Zohar. Ask him to sell me the cave of Machpelah that he owns, the one at the end of his land. Ask him to sell it to me at its full price for a burial plot, with you as witnesses.”
10-11 Ephron was part of the local Hittite community. Then Ephron the Hittite spoke up, answering Abraham with all the Hittites who were part of the town council listening: “Oh no, my master! I couldn’t do that. The field is yours—a gift. I’ll give it and the cave to you. With my people as witnesses, I give it to you. Bury your deceased wife.”
12-13 Abraham bowed respectfully before the assembled council and answered Ephron: “Please allow me—I want to pay the price of the land; take my money so that I can go ahead and bury my wife.”
14-15 Then Ephron answered Abraham, “If you insist, master. What’s four hundred silver shekels between us? Now go ahead and bury your wife.”
16 Abraham accepted Ephron’s offer and paid out the sum that Ephron had named before the town council of Hittites—four hundred silver shekels at the current exchange rate.
17-20 That’s how Ephron’s field next to Mamre—the field, its cave, and all the trees within its borders—became Abraham’s property. The town council of Hittites witnessed the transaction. Abraham then proceeded to bury his wife Sarah in the cave in the field of Machpelah that is next to Mamre, present-day Hebron, in the land of Canaan. The field and its cave went from the Hittites into Abraham’s possession as a burial plot.
DID YOU KNOW…?
Sarah had been a good wife to Abraham and a good mother to Isaac. Yes, she had her faults, as we all do, but God called her a princess (Gen. 17:15) and listed her with the heroes and heroines of faith (Heb. 11:11). The apostle Peter named her as a good example for Christian wives to follow (1 Peter 3:1-6), and Paul used her to illustrate the grace of God in the life of the believer (Gal. 4:21-31).
Abraham loved his wife, and her death was a painful experience for him. He showed his love and his grief by his weeping. These are the first recorded tears in the Bible, and tears will not end until God wipes them away in glory (Rev. 21:4). Even though he was a man of faith, Abraham did not feel that his tears were an evidence of unbelief.
Sarah died in faith (Heb. 11:11, 13), so Abraham knew that she was in the Lord’s care. In the Old Testament, very little was revealed about the afterlife, but God’s people knew that God would receive them when they died (Ps. 73:24).
The late Vance Havner had a wife named Sarah. Shortly after her untimely death, I was with Dr. Havner at the Moody Bible Institute, and I shared my condolences with him.
“I’m sorry to hear you lost your wife,” I said to him when we met in the dining room.
He smiled and replied, “Son, when you know where something is, you haven’t lost it.”
For the believer, to be “absent from the body” means to be “present with the Lord” (Phil. 1:21-23; 2 Cor. 5:1-8 nkjv); so Christians do not approach death with fear. “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord … that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them” (Rev. 14:13).
JUST PASSING THROUGH…
Even though this world is not our home, we must be careful as pilgrims and strangers to have a good witness to those who are outside the faith (1 Thess. 4:12; Col. 4:5; 1 Peter 2:11ff.). These Hittites did not worship Abraham’s God, but they respected Abraham and his faith. In fact, they offered him the use of one of their own tombs (Gen. 23:6), but Abraham refused.
Do our neighbors and acquaintances respect us and our faith?
Do they know us by our integrity and humility?
Do they know us by our love for God and our love for them?
It is a wonderful thing in a time of sorrow when the child of God has a strong witness to the lost. There is a natural sorrow that everyone expects us to manifest, but there is also a supernatural grace that God gives so that we might have joy in the midst of sorrow. The unsaved can tell the difference, and this gives us opportunity for sharing the good news of the gospel.
THINK ABOUT IT…
When you get to the end of Genesis, you find that Abraham’s tomb is quite full. Sarah was buried there, and then Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, and Leah (Gen. 49:29-31); and then Jacob joined them (50:13). Genesis ends with a full tomb, but the four gospels end with an empty tomb!
Abraham owned the whole land, but the only piece of property that was legally his was a tomb. If the Lord Jesus does not return to take us to heaven, the only piece of property each of us will own in this world will be a plot in the cemetery! We will take nothing with us; we will leave it all behind (1 Tim. 6:7). But if we are investing in things eternal, we can send it ahead (Matt. 6:19-34). If we live by faith, then we can die by faith, and when you die by faith, you have a wonderful future.
My mom, dad and both sets of grandparents knew this. I know this. I cling to what Jesus said,
“In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going away to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and welcome you into My presence, so that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”…Berean Study Bible John 14:1-3
I know where I am going, do you? I pray you do so we can be together with Jesus forever!
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the reassurance of where we are headed. I love you with all that is in me. I know where I am going. I am grateful for the “great cloud of witnesses” who have gone on before me. I am eternally grateful to you who saved my soul and reconciled my relationship with you, all because of your sacrifice. No more words in my vocabulary for that gift.
In Jesus Name, Amen